You've seen them printed on cards, strung along garlands, and adorning almost every major advertisement for the month of February. That's right: We're talking about hearts! With Valentine's day rapidly approaching and hearts almost everywhere to be seen, now is the perfect time to think about yours!
In the past, we brought you a few of the best things you can do for your heart - But have you ever considered what some of the worst things are? To help you support this important organ, this time around we're bringing you....
1.) Watching Too Much Television
Admit it: When you sit in front of the TV, your mind may be occupied, but your body doesn't do too much for the duration of your couch time. Extended periods of inactivity like this can have a very negative effect on the heart, even in those who exercise daily. Remaining sedentary can affect your blood pressure, as well as your blood sugar and fat levels. It is also a contributing risk factor for problems like coronary heart disease and blood clots.
2.) Excessive Drinking
Drinking excessively may increase your chance of heart failure, because it can raise your blood pressure, skyrocket your blood fat levels, and lead to weight gain due to extra calorie intake. Heavy drinking can also lead to something called cardiomyopathy, which is a complication where the heart muscles become weakened and therefore cannot pump blood to the rest of the body at an efficient pace, resulting in heart failure.
Smoking - no matter how little or how much - is nothing but bad news for the heart. People who smoke are 2-4 times more likely to develop heart disease or experience a stroke. Nicotine, the main chemical ingredient in cigarettes, causes heart rate and blood pressure to drastically increase, while the carbon monoxide you inhale while smoking depletes oxygen levels in the heart.
But what's the worst part about smoking? You aren't just hurting yourself, but others around you. According to the American Lung Association, secondhand smoke contributes to more than 41,000 deaths per year in the U.S. alone.
4.) Overeating & Eating Too Much Red Meat
Overeating contributes to obesity and unhealthy weight gain, which both may greatly increase your risk of developing heart disease. According to health.com, 72% of men and 64% of women in the U.S. are considered medically obese, showing how widespread this problem actually is.
High-calorie foods and excess carbohydrates result in fat production, which can lead to a build-up of plaque in the arteries and drastically increase your risk of having a stroke.
While red meat may be delicious, it's very possible to eat too much of it. Red meat is generally high in saturated fat, which raises unhealthy cholesterol. When unhealthy cholesterol levels go up, so does your chance of developing heart disease and having a stroke.
5.) Piling On Salt
As yummy as a plate of salty fries or a bag of salted popcorn might sound, salt - also called sodium - has a habit of increasing our fluid retention and raising our blood pressure. A spike in blood pressure is never good, as it puts strain on the heart and can lead to a heart attack, stoke, or other serious cardiovascular problem.